Spotlight Shines on Jeffery in UTEP Spring Game

Nathan Jeffery

April 6, 2012

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Nathan Jeffery rushed 18 times for 122 yards, and the Blue team pounded out 245 yards on the ground in a 29-0 victory over the White in UTEP's annual Spring Game on Friday night in the Sun Bowl.

Josh Bell chipped in with 14 carries for 58 yards, but it was Jeffery who stole the show from an offensive standpoint as the Miners wrapped up the 2012 edition of spring drills.

"We had four starting offensive linemen missing against a defense that was hitting hard, and I thought Jeffery really played well," UTEP coach Mike Price said. "He doesn't look as big because he has those skinny legs. But he's 205, 210 pounds. He's a heavy duty running back."

Nick Lamaison (12-for-26, 122 yards) and Carson Meger (8-for-12, 102 yards) combined to account for 224 of the Blue's 248 passing yards. The four quarterbacks who saw action completed passes to 12 different receivers, as Jacob Garcia led the Blue with 73 yards on two catches.

Lamaison and Meger hooked up with Jordan Leslie and Eric Tomlinson for touchdown passes of 45 and four yards, respectively, and Jeffery scored on a three-yard run. Steven Valadez completed the scoring by connecting on 3-of-4 field goal attempts, connecting from 42 yards twice and 38 yards once.

Price was pleased that the offense has shown improvement over the course of the spring, although the center exchange was again a problem on Friday night.

"We will solve that by recruiting and also by getting [starting center] Eloy Atkinson back," Price said. "That's not our full team that you saw tonight. The timing of the offense has been off all spring. It's tough to throw the ball, find the handle, read the defensive end and do all the things that we're trying to do without a perfect snap. We know what we're doing, we just have to get the right snapper in there."

On the other side of the ball, A.J. Ropati was credited with 10 tackles and the defense registered four sacks - one each from Cooper Brock, Ruben Munoz, Drew Thomas and Greg Watkins.

"The defense is playing well," Price said. "I was very pleased with Drew Thomas. He had a great spring. He broke on the ball and made some really critical tackles, he corner blitzed and really made plays."

The defense forced three turnovers, with Munoz and Marcus Bagley both recovering fumbles and Thomas picking off Lamaison for a 10-yard return.

While the Blue team registered 493 yards of offense, 150 came on three plays - a 47-yard run by Jeffery, 58-yard reception by Garcia and Leslie's 45-yard TD. The offense averaged 3.4 yards on its other 101 plays for the night.

"I feel real good about the spring and where we sit today," UTEP defensive coordinator Andre Patterson said. "I told the players, are they going to be satisfied with what they did in 15 practices, or are they going to take it as a taste of how good they can be and work even harder."

The Miners will start fall drills on Monday, Aug. 6, with Socorro, N.M. camp slated for Aug. 7-15. Coach Price is eager to have a full compliment of offensive players at his disposal.

"I can't wait for our offensive line to be back at full strength," he said. "I thought [offensive line coach] Brian Natkin showed a lot of patience this spring."



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